My heart danced for joy as I anticipated the meeting. New to the Christian faith as a young mom in my early twenties, I believed I could make a difference in the ministry I joined. Skipping up the stairs of the historical building to the staff offices, I waited breathlessly at the leader’s door. As I entered the office, soft navy carpet greeted my feet, while wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling wooden bookshelves captured my gaze. The shelves held my attention as I found my seat and positioned myself across the broad desk. Thousands of questions tempted me to peruse the abundance of theological books, but the reason for the visit kept me focused.
One small window bathed a corner of the room in sunlight, but for the most part, the office sat dark. I expected to hear spring songs from the clusters of birds nestled in the buildings nearby roofline; yet, the only sound echoing in the room was the steady tick-tock of the desk clock. Soon my fast-beating heart slowed in time to the clock’s rhythm. I began to share how I felt God leading me to create a more caring environment for the parents and children in the ministry because the current climate seemed tethered to rigidity and rules.
What happened next shook me not only in the moment but for years afterward. The leader across the desk sat up in his tall leather chair and looked at me with disdain. Instead of inviting my gifts into the situation to make things better, he shared his thoughts about me. Now, thirty years later, I can still hear his words clearly as if spoken yesterday, “Laura, you are a troublemaker.”
I don’t remember much more of the conversation, but I do remember I felt confused that my attempt to help came across in a way I never intended. The four flights of stairs I skipped up seemed long and laborious on the way back down. Slowly I exited the building and made my way across the parking lot to the car. I drove home with the words replaying in my mind. I thought about them for days afterward, asking God multiple times, “Am I a troublemaker?” because I genuinely felt sent by God to help.
As time marched on, our family moved away, and I became involved in different ministries. Over the years, as I prayerfully felt the Lord’s leading to share ideas, I would wrestle with fear the person in authority would see my attempt to help as a way to cause trouble. The enemy of our soul enforced the lie in each of my relationships. At different pivotal times in my growth as a Christian, I experienced moments where I felt the Lord leading me to share only to find the person on the receiving end twisting the conversation to question my intentions instead of focusing on the matter at hand.
Recently in 1 Kings 18 studying the story of Elijah, God gave me insight into these types of conversations. In verses 17-18, King Ahab speaks with Elijah, the prophet who bore the news the land would be without rain for three years due to the King’s idolatrous behavior. King Ahab sees Elijah as the cause of the country’s drought. King Ahab is the true troublemaker because he turned to other gods for worship. Instead of accepting responsibility for his actions, he uses the conversation to blame Elijah for the famine.
Suppose we diligently pray about a matter of faith and feel led by the Holy Spirit to speak the truth in love. In that case, we need God to give us eyes to see and ears to hear if the dialogue moves from the matter of faith to an attack on our character and intentions, as exemplified in 1 Kings 18:17-18.
Only Jesus knows our heart and true intentions. If we are prayerfully following Him in obedience, we do not need to receive a person’s attack against our character and intentions. We do not need to accept responsibility for being the trouble when the trouble was set into motion by other’s choices and behavior. We are not troublemakers when our deepest motivation is love. Bringing darkness into the light is essential for spiritual growth. Natural consequences occur when God’s people turn from Him. Let’s not let the conversation change to us as the reason for the consequences.
If God sends us to speak the truth in love, let’s go in reliance on His Spirit for every word we share. At the same time, let’s rely on the Spirit to make us aware when the conversation negatively shifts away from the matter of faith. We are not the matter to be discussed. The instant we become the focus of the discussion, let’s rely on the Spirit for strength to stay grounded in our identity in Christ. Let’s allow His love to pour forth in our words rather than falling away in despair or powering up in anger. Our best defense is not to react but to remain focused and dependent upon our Heavenly Father.
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